DOWNTOWN — Standing before a steel girder from the World Trade Center, Los Angeles officials marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with speeches, a bell ringing ceremony and a rendition of “Taps.”

Police Chief Charlie Beck called 9/11 “a day of horror and infamy.”

Law enforcement helicopters flew over the ceremony Wednesday at the LA Fire Department training center in Elysian Park

It was one of many similar events across Southern California.

Fire Fighters gather at Fire Station 1 on Wednesday morning to remember those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including the public safety personnel who died while trying to rescue those trapped in the World Trade Center towers. (Brandon Wise brandonw@smdp.com)

Fire Fighters gather at Fire Station 1 on Wednesday morning to remember those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including the public safety personnel who died while trying to rescue those trapped in the World Trade Center towers. (Brandon Wise brandonw@smdp.com)

Santa Monica fire fighters across the city held remembrance ceremonies at each fire station in the early morning hours to remember the 2,977 people who lost their lives in the attacks, including the 343 fire fighters, 60 police officers and eight private EMT/paramedics. The ceremony included the ringing of the stations’ bells, followed by a moment of silence. Fire Chief Scott Ferguson offered words of encouragement to those at Fire Station 1.

In Malibu, the lawn at Pepperdine University is adorned with nearly 3,000 flags, each representing the nationality of each victim of the attacks 12 years ago.

Before an evening game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers will pay tribute to first responders by unfurling a 9/11 flag from the New York Says Thank You Foundation in center field.

For President Barack Obama, the prospect of more U.S. military action in the Middle East hung over his observance Wednesday of the Sept. 11 attacks that occurred a dozen years ago.

While Obama made no direct mention of the crisis in Syria, he vowed to “defend our nation” against the threats that endure, even though they may be different than the ones facing the country during the 2001 attacks.

“Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is sometimes necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek,” Obama said during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

The president spoke the morning after an address to the nation where he defended a possible military strike on Syria in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack. But he expressed some hope that a diplomatic solution might emerge that would keep the U.S. from having to launch a strike. In the afternoon he volunteered at a Washington charity, urging Americans to also observe the day by helping their communities.

Among those gathered at the Pentagon Wednesday where family members of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Many wore red, white, and blue striped ribbons and some cried as the president spoke.

“Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been,” Obama said.

The president also paid tribute to the four Americans killed one year ago in an attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, asking the country to pray for those who “serve in dangerous posts” even after more than a decade of war.

In a commemorative event at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder called on an audience of several hundred employees to remember “the nearly 3,000 innocent people whose lives were lost” and to pay tribute to the 72 law enforcement officers who were killed trying to save others.

Obama opened the day with a somber remembrance at the White House. The searing memory of death and destruction brought him to the South Lawn for a moment of silence and reflection a dozen years after terrorists emblazoned this date indelibly in people’s minds, hearts and calendars as “9/11.”

Along with first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, the president walked out of the White House to the lawn at 8:46 a.m., EDT — the moment on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center tower in New York.

Obama and staff assembled there with him bowed their heads to observe a moment of silence, and then listened as a bugler played “Taps.”

Later Obama visited Food & Friends, a Washington charity that delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. He donned an apron and a baseball cap with the charity’s logo and packed apples, bananas and pre-wrapped sandwiches as part of a volunteer assembly line.

Obamas said Sept. 11 is an occasion not just to remember the victims of the terrorist attack, but for “neighbors helping neighbors.”

He encouraged Americans to “look for a way to volunteer in your own community.”

 

The Associated Press contributed most of this report.

 

editor@smdp.com